Different writing styles in different anglophone countries?

Nightingale   Mon Aug 14, 2006 3:19 pm GMT
Do people from different anglophone countries have subtly different writing styles?

Just by looking at a piece of text, can you tell whether its author is from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, or India?

Let's ignore spelling differences for now; they're a dead giveaway (unless it's a choice between British and Australian).

Focus on the stylistic elements: organisation, tone, and word choice to name a few. Focus on the subtle, not the formulaic. Perhaps these differences are due to different educational systems and teaching methods?

And most importantly: Try to compare equivalent texts... A British newspaper article to an American one of equal calibre (*pokes Damian*). A report in the British Medical Journal to one in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A GCSE essay to an SAT essay. Etc. etc.

Have fun!!
Nightingale   Mon Aug 14, 2006 3:28 pm GMT
Oh, of course I've noticed such stylistic differences, or I wouldn't be starting this thread =p

I can't lay a finger on them either. It's pretty much a gut feeling: I'd read some article in Scientific American and think "Hey, this isn't by an American author"... and then I flip to the next page and, sure enough, see that the author is some professor at Cambridge or Nottingham.

(Note that American spelling is consistently used in Scientific American, even in articles by foreign authors. The editors probably run everything through a spell-checker set to US English. This leaves no doubt that my "gut feeling" was due to stylistic differences.)
Ben   Tue Aug 15, 2006 10:17 pm GMT
things like:
- to go to hospital (BrE), to go to the hospital? (AmE)


is a good resource.
Nightingale   Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:01 am GMT
Hmm, no, not things like that. I've memorised all those "formulaic differences" already. Looking for something subtler...
Nightingale   Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:05 am GMT
For instance...

1. Do one country's writers tend to use the passive more than another country's?
2. Do one country's writers write longer sentences than another? (Linking multiple clauses together rather than separating them)
3. Are one country's writers more averse to using first and second person pronouns than another's?

Nightingale   Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:09 am GMT
And, for a start, are there any stylistic differences due to contrasting advice in Fowler's Modern English Usage (British) and the Chicago Manual of Style (American)?

All right... I suppose you understand what I'm talking about now? =p
Damian in E16   Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:42 am GMT

This has the makings of a very interesting discussion......I will respond later today or this evening before I go out...right now I'm pushed for time...big time! cu l8r......
Uriel   Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:54 am GMT
I think passive vs active voice is largely a individual preference. I know when I was in school, style manuals strove hard to get people to minimize their use of the passive voice -- so obviously lots of people were "guilty" of using it if they needed to be "corrected" so vociferously -- so I doubt that has an actual geographical basis.

It probably depends on the author and the style they're going for. I've read some Australian books, and they struck me as sounding pretty "American" -- in that as I was reading them to myself, the wording sounded "natural" to me -- as in, naturally the way I would speak myself. A few dialectical differences would crop up from time to time to remind me that the narrative wasn't entirely in my voice, though.

British authors, however, especially ones trying to be funny, often DO "sound" different -- subtle wording choices that I wouldn't normally make, more of a taste for absurd metaphors, long convoluted sentences, and more noticeable uses of dialectical differences.

But then again, read Faulkner sometime....he was American, and sentences may not GET more convoluted that some of his stuff.